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What I Read in November 2016

November was a great month fiction and miserable month for just about everything else. First off, I'll mention I'm in process of getting together a "Best of 2016" list together in preparation for the "Short Sharp Shocks," panel I'll be on for next year's Arisia. I'm on the panel with some incredible writers and reviewers of short fiction but one awesome thing is that one of the panelists shares an appreciation for one of my current favorite short fiction writers, Gwendolyn Kiste (highlighted below). This promises to be a great conversation.

I'm also going to make a shameless plug because: why not? "Gazer," by Karen Osborne appears in the same "Electric Spec Magazine," issue as my story "The Yuru-chara of Hector, NY." Read her excellent story first and then give my a try in if you're in the mood for a coming-of-age story set in a world beset by virtual creatures come to life. Although not described here, the other stories in the issue (by authors Chris Barnham, Sydney Baylock, and Chris Walker) are also of very high quality and well worth your time.
  • "When You Work For the Old Ones" by Sandra McDonald in Nightmare Magazine. A deceptively straightforward title for a deceptively straightforward concept. This story isn't what it purports to be which I mean in the best possible way. The gestures to Mythos are meant not to describe a world where such terrors exist but rather the conflicted feelings any artist must feel seeing the claw and wing of Lovecraft's generation spanning influence. Still, for a very short work, it creates an impressive fatalistic atmosphere.
  • "The Curtain" by Thana Niveau, reprinted in "The Dark," magazine. This is more terrifying. I've been paying more attention to how stories begin recently, trying to figure out how a writer foreshadows the themes and preoccupations of a story. Some writers go the direct route, stating whatever the speculative or horrific element is right in the first paragraph. Here, Niveau sets up a scuba diver slipping below the waves off a coast devastated by a recent hurricane. There's nothing overtly supernatural or horrific other than isolation and risk suggested by strapping a steel tank to your back and plunging into the black. However, as those initial themes return later in the story they appear in nightmarish distortions. Overall, I recommend this as an effective character study and exercise in establishing and maintaining a very specific mood.
  • "Holiday Playlist for the End of the World" by Gwendolyn Kiste in Daily Science Fiction. Charming and yet disturbing flash piece about how Christmas Carols might presage the end of the world. Considering I've got to start some holiday this weekend, this piece continues to sit with me. This is might be a coincidence but the story shares a structure with an old "Built to Spill," song, "You Were Right."
  • Gazer by Karen Osborne in Electric spec. A powerful story equating fantasy life with addiction. I've seen this motif before but the focus on the concept of the "chosen one," sells it. Plus, and this may be me reading into things, Osborne's alluring fantasy world alludes to sources, Thomas Ligotti and Susanna Clarke, that I could see myself falling victim to. The closing line is chilling.
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